Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If Only...

By R.J. Harlick

If you could magically do one thing to make the business end of writing easier for yourself, what would it be? (Having an Assistant? Learning to use a program you have resisted? Having someone who could magically explain your royalty statement? Knowing for sure what promotion would work best for you?)

I can quickly knock off a program. I’ve no interest in these fancy software tools that are supposed to do everything but write the book for you. The words, the story have to come from the heart and soul of the writer. A computer program would only produce the work of an automaton.

I gave up trying to figure out my royalty statements years ago. I don’t think anyone, no matter how mathematically inclined they are, could decipher it. My usual approach is to put the envelope aside until I’m in a good place with my writing, open it quickly, groan at the amount and return to my writing.

It would be nice to know what type of promotion would work best for me, but I think that’s only one part of a much larger job, ASSISTANT.

Yup, like Terry, I’d love to have my very own personal assistant. I am very envious of those authors who can afford to have one. It would be wonderful, I will even say magical, to have someone worry about all those other aspects related to THE BOOK, while I concentrate on the writing.

Not only would they help organize my time, ensuring I wasn’t going to miss deadlines and was sufficiently prepared for events, but they could help with the research, which depending on where I send Meg, could entail a fair amount of digging to get exactly what I need for the story. They could also be someone to toss around story ideas with and to help talk me through those log jams that invariably raise their stubborn head during the course of the writing. Though I wouldn’t expect my assistant to be an editor, I would want them to read the first draft as it was progressing to ensure the storyline and characters were making sense.

I would also want them to handle the promotional side, performing such tasks as managing my website and social media, scouting out guest blogger opportunities, organizing book launches, library readings, store signings, guest author appearances at literary festivals and radio and TV interviews. I would probably want them to work with my publisher’s publicist in developing a comprehensive list of media contacts for press releases and the like.

Whew, sounds like a lot, eh? But it would be so wonderful….if only.

Now back to finalizing the proofs for Purple Palette for Murder, organizing its book launch and beginning the cumbersome task of identifying and contacting books stores and libraries for the ensuing book tour.

And while I have your attention, Purple Palette for Murder is now available for pre-order at the various online stores, such as Amazon.com or Chapters.Indigo.ca.  I should also mention that some of the earlier books in the series are now available in large print.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Business life

Business:: If you could make magically do one thing to make the business end of writing easier for yourself, what would it be?

Terry here, posting a little early because I haven't figured out how to schedule posts (see below) and I have to leave for the airport at 6AM.

I yearn for an assistant to help me with the business side of writing. My ideal assistant would be someone who:

1)   Can handle book-related social media. By that I mean someone who knows what to post about my books, how often, what the best demographic target would be, what would be cost effective, how to word promotion, when to do a giveway or some other promotional idea.
2)   Could put together a book bible for me. A book bible is a list of what characters appear in which books, their physical descriptions, their backgrounds and quirky habits. The bible would include places I’ve mentioned in each book, again with descriptions. That means the assistant would have to read each book, paying close attention.
3)   Could track what promotions work best in terms of sales.
4)   Would put together book tours and panels—and come up with savvy ideas for getting an audience there.
5)   Would run piddly errands for me, like picking up my cleaning or buying vitamins, or paying bills or having my hair done. Oh, wait, that’s something I would have to be there for in person. Not to mention that it’s something I actually enjoy. It may not seem like these are business-related, but they are insofar as they allow me more time to write.
6)   The perfect assistant would keep my computer and phone updated to the latest bells and whistles and teach me how to use them. (And how to do things like schedule these posts).
7)   And finally, how I would love for someone to tidy up my emails—weeding out the ones that say things like, “Yes.” And filing the ones I need to keep in the proper folders.

Several things keep me from hiring this mythical creature:

First, I would have to find someone, and I don’t have a clue how to do that. Then I would have to explain all these tasks. I would have to pay them! I would have to be willing to put tasks off until the assistant comes each week, because I surely couldn’t afford to have someone work for me all day every day.

One of the stickiest problems would be: Where would the assistant work? I can’t give up my computer for them to work on, and even if they had their own computer, some of these tasks could only be done on mine.

So until I figure out all this, the assistant is me! And quite frankly, I don’t think I do these tasks all that well. I’m open to suggestions from anyone who might have solved this problem. Takers anyone?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Dazed and Confused, but Too Tough to Die

If your writing process/life could be summarized as the title of a song – what song would it be? i.e. Born to be Wild, The Long and Winding Road… And why? 

by Paul D. Marks

Well, I’m not sure if this song would cover the entire process or life of a writer – this writer – summarized in a single song, but at least part of it would be the Beatles’ Paperback Writer*. The song opens with these lyrics, “Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?” and I always wanted to open a query letter with just those words. Never have, but you never know.

The song goes on to tell the story of someone who wants to be a ‘paperback’ writer. He’s written a story of a dirty man, who has a wife who doesn’t understand. He has a steady job, but he wants to be a paperback writer. He’s even amenable to the editing process, willing to change the length. And he tempts the editor he’s writing to with the thought that his book could make a million for them overnight. Who doesn’t want that, right? Though we’re told not to do things like that in a query letter. And on top of everything else, the song has a great guitar riff.

But it’s not the only song that comes to mind. At various stages of my life all of these song titles (below) could have described my writing career and writing angst. And, as Cathy said earlier in the week, it’s really just the titles or a line or two that applies. That said, here goes, my writing life in a succession of song titles (in no particular order, that would take too much concentration):

Hooray for Hollywood
Celluloid Heroes
I’ve Seen That Movie Too
Too Tough To Die
Long and Winding Road
Trouble is a Friend
Not Fair
Comfortably Numb
No Expectations
Gimme Shelter
Let it Bleed
Rip This Joint
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Yer Blues
Low Budget
Living on a Thin Line
Stop Your Sobbing
No More Looking Back
Iron Man
Dazed and Confused
Good Times, Bad Times
Don’t Let It Bring You Down
The Loneliest Place on the Map
My Enemies Have Sweet Voices
For No One (when a story gets rejected)
Break on Through
Art Fails
Only the Lonely
The Long and Winding Road
The End

Well, you get the idea. There’s been ups and downs, good times, bad times and I’ve often been dazed and confused. Times I wanted to throw in the towel and times when I felt on top of the world. So, despite all the turbulence, you just have to stick with it, believe in yourself and do it because you must, not because it will “make a million for you overnight”.

And when you’re done with your story, and to bring it full circle with Paperback Writer:

“If you must return it, you can send it here, But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer.”

Paul McCartney performing Paperback Writer

*“Paperback Writer” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney


And now for the usual BSP:

Episode 2 of Writer Types from Eric Beetner and Steve W. Lauden is here, with a bunch of great stuff. Interviews and reviews with Reed Farrell Coleman, Joe Lansdale Jess Lourey, agent Amy Moore-Benson, Kris E Calvin, Danny Gardner, Kate Hackbarth Malmon, Dan Malmon, Erik Arneson, Dana Kaye and……….me. Be there or be y'know. 

Also, I’m over at the ITW Big Thrill—Thriller Roundtable this week talking about “How long does it take you to write a book? Why do some stories flow so much faster than others?” along with Karen Harper, Jean Harrington, David Alexander, Heidi Renee Mason, Winter Austin, Adrian Magson, Susan Fleet, A.J. Kerns and Ronnie Allen. – Please come and join in the discussion.

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea is available at Amazon.com and Down & Out Books.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

"What song title best describes your writing life? And why." by Catriona

Well, it's not that Ian Dury hit now, is it? "Post-it Notes and Cups of Tea" would never have been released as an A-side.

Mind you, "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" is a contender for the editing part of the job. "Stet for rhythm" is my most frequent margin note when a copy-editor tries to bend towards the formal, conservative English style some copy editors seem to prefer.

"Once I Had a Secret Leeerrrrrve" describes the decades of wanting to be a writer but thinking it was a pipe-dream.

"Imagination (ooh ooh ooh oo-oo ooh!)" isn't as apposite as I thought it might be. "Keep On Keepin On" is more to the point on any given day.

"Baby's Got Back" is a horribly accurate account of what happens to one's physique from keeping on keeping the bum in the chair as long as you need, though.

If I had to pick just one, it wouldn't be "Why does it always rain on me?" despite the frequent pity-parties about the state of publishing and the incivility of anonymous reviewers. It would be my favourite (uncool) song.  (And I'm so uncool I made a clanger about who sang it!) Because we've all got bigger things to worry about these days and, for me, writing it's still the best job in the world.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sinatra, Bowie, Curry, Joel & Joplin...by Cathy Ace

If your writing process/life could be summarized as the title of a song – what song would it be? And why?

Okay, I admit it – there’ve been some challenging questions to respond to on this blog since I joined, but this particular one has had me scratching my head in an entirely different way. The reason? Most of the “songs” I know only really apply insofar as one tiny part of the lyrics apply to one part of my writing life, so here goes….

My writing process/life is a mixture of extremely organized (outlining, research etc.) and chaotic (I rebel against any sort of routine). So there’s always a tension there. Also, the longer I write, and the more books I write, so my overall feelings about my writing life shift.

I honestly believe that the first book an author writes is probably the closest to their heart; when I wrote “The Corpse with the Silver Tongue” (my first Cait Morgan Mystery) it had been rattling around inside my head for years, so it was the close to “the book you are desperate to write”. As I was writing that book, and throughout the time when it was my only book in the marketplace, I suppose the song that best described my emotions about my writing life would be “My Way”. 

Then I learned more about editing with a publisher, the business of publishing, the way in which the marketplace demanded “labels” for an author’s work and my perspective shifted. By book #3, The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb, I felt that Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel” was more appropriate, as I felt I had to fight to write a book that was traditional, rather than “Cozy” with a capital “C”, and thus I included a mysterious serial killer in the background story, as well as introducing the specter of Mexican drug smuggling. By book #4, the Corpse with the Platinum Hair, I was back to Sinatra again, having gained acceptance for a setting in Las Vegas, with which I won Canada's national prize for best light mystery, the Bony Blithe Award - it seemed as though "Luck Be a Lady" was working out for me.
Finally, I set a book in Wales, The Corpse with the Sapphire Eyes, insert sound track of “Going Home” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show here. I liked that feeling, so sought out a way to write a series set there. 

Next, I had to build a relationship with a new publisher at my Canadian publishing house, as well as with a new agent and a totally new publisher in the UK for that proposed second series of books – the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries.  It was a busy, challenging year where I felt I was “Running on Ice” a la Billy Joel. 

By 2016, I hoped I’d found my feet again, but it was now far from “My Way” and much more like Joplin's wailing “Piece of My Heart” as I finally came to terms with the schedule required to write three books a year, launch three books a year, and be an active (hopefully effective) Chair of Crime Writers of Canada.

Now, in 2017? It’s early days yet: I just sent a manuscript to my agent and it will be with my publisher by the end of February – this will be the fourth in the Wise Enquiries Agency series, and I have eight Cait Morgan books in the market. I’m looking forward to re-editing my originally self-published first two volumes of short stories and novella later this year…so am I about to channel Ol’ Blue Eyes again? I don’t know…but even if I do, I've learned enough over the past five years to know it won’t be “My Way” but much more likely to be “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” than anything else! Wish me luck, folks, and here’s hoping I’ll be waving not drowning. 

Cathy's next book, THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS COOK (book #3 in the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries) will be published in Canada and the USA on March 1st: the ladies of the WISE Enquiries Agency are called in to investigate some strange shenanigans at a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye. As the WISE women try to unravel this puzzle from their base at stately Chellingworth Hall, they then get embroiled in another when they come across a valuable book of miniatures which seems to be the work of a local famous artist, murdered by her own brother. Are the cases linked and why do both mysteries lead to a nearby old folks’ home? The WISE women are on the case – and nothing will get in their way . . . Or will it? https://www.amazon.com/Case-Curious-Cook-Publishers-Enquiries/dp/0727886681/

“Like” Cathy Ace – Author on Facebook and sign up for Cathy’s newsletter before March 1st to stand a chance of entering for a special offer on this book. https://www.facebook.com/Cathy-Ace-Author-318388861616661/